Finding the Universal in Your Memoir with Lisa Cooper Ellison

This class is now over and is unavailable for purchase. Sign up to receive announcements about upcoming classes.

Write with meaning for readers

Something deep inside you compels you to write your story down.

Maybe you’ve gone on an incredible adventure or had an odd experience that will delight and entertain readers.

Maybe you’ve gone through something harrowing—and maybe horrible—and hope that sharing your experience will help those who might suffer the same fate.

Maybe you’ve developed some incredible realizations after an awe-inspiring life.

Maybe you just want your family to know and understand you.

Maybe you just want to understand yourself.

But a successful memoir is more than a record of your life experiences. It has to mean something to the reader.

The first draft of any memoir is for the writer. But a final draft must become a mirror for the reader’s soul. To truly serve the reader, you must find the universal story embedded in your life experience. Finding your universal story requires you to simultaneously walk the tightropes of honesty, vulnerability, and objectivity. You need the courage to say the things everyone thinks but no one wants to say, while never losing perspective on how your work fits into current conversations happening around your topic. It requires a commitment to introspection, a willingness to forgive, and a ruthless ability to identify what’s important and eliminate everything else.

This 75-minute live class will cover: 

  • What the universal is and why it’s critical to your story
  • How identifying the universal in your personal story benefits you and the reader
  • The obstacles writers face while trying to locate their universal story
  • Strategies for finding the universal in your memoir
  • How you know when your story is truly finished
  • How to increase your chances of writing a successful memoir

Who should take this class

  • New writers who want to understand what’s expected of a publishable memoir
  • Beginning to intermediate writers who are revising their memoir
  • Memoirists who’ve been told “you’re a great writer, but something’s missing in this story”
  • Writers hoping to attract an agent or publisher
  • Writers who want to tell the truest version of their life stories even if they don’t formally publish them

How do I know if this webinar is worth the cost?

This is an important question, and it’s a tough one to answer—especially since so much online education is available free of charge. Furthermore, every student is different, and a valuable webinar for one person can end up being a disappointment to another. For this reason, we offer full refunds if you register, attend the entire class, and fail to get the information you were looking for. Please contact us to request a refund.

Do I have to attend the live class?

No. Everyone who registers will get access to the recording. However, if you’d like to attend live, keep reading.

How do I attend the live class?

This class uses Zoom webinar technology. You will join through your Internet-connected computer or mobile device. When you register, you will receive information via email on how to join the class. If you don’t receive it within 1 hour of registering, please contact us.

  • When: Wednesday, May 19, 2021
  • Time: 1 p.m.–2:15 p.m. Eastern Time / 10 a.m. Pacific Time
  • Fee: $25

The webinar is broadcasted via the internet with live audio delivered through your computer or mobile device speakers. The visual presentation is displayed directly from the presenter’s computer to your computer screen. The Q&A is managed through a chat-style submission system with questions read and answered by the presenter for the entire class to hear.

Closed captions are provided during the live class. For students joining the class through the Zoom app on a mobile device, you can enable/disable the closed captions through your settings.

Lisa Ellison

About the instructor

Lisa Ellison is an editor, writing coach, and speaker with an Ed.S in Clinical Mental Health Counseling and a background in mindfulness. She has spent the last two decades helping clients and students turn difficult experiences into art and currently teaches courses in memoir, creative nonfiction, and mindful writing practices.

Lisa’s life story and essays have been featured by NPR’s With Good Reason, Hippocampus, Kenyon Review Online, Huffington Post, and The Guardian, among others. To learn more, check out her website.

Lisa’s course was fantastic. Thanks for making her expertise and course materials available! Everything was done at an impressive level of professionalism.

Sam Farler


Lisa is both an accomplished teacher and very talented practitioner of mindful writing. She is a very capable, empathic and insightful writing teacher, who creates and sustains a safe, warm space for students to learn and become successful writers themselves.

Rita Hart


Time flew by, an indicator that the webinar was good and on point. Thank you to Lisa for offering us a
generous amount of useful info. My questions were answered.

Gillian Foster


You’ll receive the following

  • Access to the 75-minute interactive class. After 60 minutes, Lisa will take questions using in-class chat/text. The class will end after roughly 75 minutes.
  • A recording of the class—audio and video. This is especially helpful if you have a conflict with the class time or something comes up and you can’t make the session. Each registration comes with access to the archived version of the program and the materials for 30 days. You do not have to attend the live event to get a recording of the presentation.
  • Presentation slides. All participants receive a copy of the slide presentation in PDF form.
  • Rough transcript. We use Otter to create an automated transcript of the entire webinar, which we’ll share with you in addition to the audio and video recording.

Event Attendance & Anti-Harassment Policy

We strive to provide an environment where all present—whether attendee, presenter, or staff—can feel supported. In order to ensure a welcoming event, here is what we expect from all who participate.

  • That the presenter and the presenter’s work be treated with respect by attendees and that all attendees treat each other with respect and a generosity of spirit.
  • That attendees will refrain from harassment of any sort including (but not limited to) comments or questions of a racist, homophobic, sexist/sexual, or threatening nature. This includes actions that disrupt or interfere with anyone’s ability to participate. Offenders will be disconnected from the live event.

System Requirements to Join the Webinar

We will be using Zoom webinar technology.

You’ll need:

  • An internet connection: broadband wired or wireless (3G or 4G/LTE)
  • Speakers: built-in, USB plug-in or wireless Bluetooth

Recommended bandwidth:

  • 600kbps (down) for high-quality video and 1.2 Mbps (down) for HD video
  • If you connect through audio only: 60-80kbps (down)

Supported operating systems:

Supported tablet and mobile devices:

  • Surface PRO 2 running Win 8.1
  • iOS and Android devices
  • Blackberry devices

Supported browsers:

  • Windows: IE 11+,  Edge 12+, Firefox 27+,  Chrome 30+
  • Mac: Safari 7+, Firefox 27+,  Chrome 30+
  • Linux: Firefox 27+,  Chrome 30+

For a detailed listing of system requirements, check Zoom’s site.